10 years of Inception, a film that taught me to look beyond entertainment

10 years after release, there is little to say about Inception which hasn’t already been said. Let me elucidate what the film meant to me.

Inception, to my 13-year-old self, was a revelation. It changed the way I looked at cinema forever.

As a South-Indian boy who grew up feeding on popular regional cinema, bollywood, Star Movies, and DVDs of Hollywood action blockbusters, the purpose of films was solely confined to escapism. Although it sounds extremely dumb now, to me 10 years ago, movies meant only entertainment, a word that’s highly misunderstood in India. We mistake enjoyment for entertainment. Little did I know that getting sucked into a vortex of emotions is equally entertaining. In that sense, Inception was emancipation from pre-existing notions pertaining to movies. Cinematically putting it, the film held me with a hand, walking me to a door that had ‘look beyond entertainment’ written on it, while pushing my ignorance off the cliff with the other. 

It was also the time I discovered something called editing, an often unobserved facet of film-viewing. Unlike cinematography and music where colors are evident and beats reverb in ears, editing goes unseen, when done masterfully. Its noticeability is inversely proportional to the quality, making it the most arduous and tricky craft to judge. The marriage of editing and screenplay in Inception made me wonder if it was written that way, or was it mold on the editing table, especially in the last act, where the placement of shots preceding and succeeding each other are of utmost significance.

Every cut and shot selection makes a difference, leveraging which editor Lee Smith and writer/director Christopher Nolan, meticulously shape into a compelling drama. That was unlike anything I’d seen before. It was no more about making me go WOW with the visual effects or action set pieces, but what mattered was the emotional resonance while watching those unfold. 

Beneath all the layers of dreams and exotic locations, it is a human drama about a father, whose biggest adversary is his guilt that he has to overcome in order to get to his children. It’s about a son groping with inferiority, finding his foothold. Amidst the incredible action pieces going hand-in+hand with what could be one of the greatest soundtracks ever put together, there is a film suffused with brilliant ideas, accomplishing every one of them.

I think we take this for granted, but cinema, as an art form is still in its adolescence banking heavily on literature (and comic books), and is on the verge of falling prey to capitalism on the basis of ‘demand & supply’ theory, it’s films like Inception which keep both cinema and magic of cinema alive.

Further reading:

A piece on Udaan, which released on the same day as Inception.

Time by Hans Zimmer:


When will we realize that peace of mind matters more than anything else?

When will we stop associating materialistic and monetary facets to happiness?

When will we learn that life by itself is a reward, and it’s fine to be yourself as long you are happy?

When will we live in peace?

When will we place happiness above everything else?

Why do we need the tragic death of Sushant to remind us how precious life is?

Every time someone important leaves us, life reminds us how curt and unforeseeable it can be. Time after time, person after person, it’s the same question that runs through my mind, and hopefully yours too.

When the world woke up to the demise of global superstar Kobe Bryant on 7th February, it grieved. And moved on.

After losing our beloved Irrfan, we moved on with heavy hearts.

As the mortalities due to the virus surge past 420k worldwide, we are moving on.

We have to move on and there is no question about it. But what we do have is a choice to remain the same person, or to learn from the world around and then move on with the new-found solidarity with life.

On the other hand, the lockdown and the subsequent isolation effortlessly changed our daily routines in the past 3 months, but did they change our personality and priorities? If a global pandemic can’t change us, what will?

But before that, why should we change, in the first place? 

Good question.

Answer: For your good.

How’s that possible?

Let me ask you. Are you happy?


Great to know! What makes you happy?

My job that allows me to afford anything I want

What happens if you lose the job?

That’s awful. I’ve got no life without it.

See how tangible and fragile your happiness is when it’s reliant on another materialistic aspect.

According to 2018 data from the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), India witnessed 1.3 lakh suicides in 2018, among which 8% were students. That means 28 students died of suicide every day through the year.

Days ago, the governments of Telangana and Tamil Nadu cancelled board exams of 10th standard in the wake of COVID-19. The message cannot be clearer than this. When it’s a matter of life or exams, any sane human being would elect the former. Not just with exams, but when life is pitted against anything, you choose life. 

Staying alive, despite failing or being poor, is always better than dying after achieving 90 percentile or having a fat bank balance.

Choose life over everything else.

But also, The point is not about being a monk. It’s about refraining from associating the concept of happiness with monitory prospects. I hate sounding like Zoya Akthar’s characters who seek happiness and answers in exotic foreign locations, but the point is to find happiness in your place, your home, within yourself.

The Train Man

Here is an incident my father keeps telling me about. 

In 2009, my father was on a train from Surat to Goa for official purposes. Sitting opposite to him was a Gujrati family, comprising of the husband and wife, the husband’s parents, and their two kids. Being the chatter he is, my father indulged in a long conversation that ended with the man giving the entire breakdown of his monthly income and expenditure. Leaving the number-crunching aside, the crux is that the family survives on a single income of 5k rupees per month, living in their own home in Surat. 

They manage the budget efficiently and plan a family vacation every year. The previous year, it was Mount Abu, and it’s Goa this year.

“The man was very proud and happy!”, are the closing lines every time he shares this story.

What I learned from the story is how self-sufficient and happy you can be, if you choose to, as the man on the train.

The reason I’m sharing this story is,

If you are reading this, that not just means you have a phone/computer, and access to the internet, but you can ‘see’ and ‘read’. Realize how lucky you are to have eye-sight and functional brain, for the matter of fact. There are 289 Mn visually impaired people in the world. 39 Mn of them are completely blind. Kindly concede that you have a lot, and be grateful for what you have. Your life is a dream to many.

I, by no means, ask you to stop pursuing dreams. Do it, but don’t get disheartened if you can’t. Remember this: If you can see, talk, hear, and are hopefully surrounded by people who love you, that’s all you need. You can earn the rest.

Sorry, Sushant

Sushant’s demise is a heart-breaking reminder that no amount of money and fame can buy you happiness, the most important facet in life. No other celebrity death has ever crushed me as much as his. Sadder part, there are countless people around us going through the same anguish that pushed Sushant to the extreme. None of us can ever fathom what he must have experienced, but we can do our bit to those in similar desolation as Sushant, by just being kind.

All the love that we are outpouring today for Sushant, had it been poured yesterday, it could have saved him. We are all complicit.

But we can save others. With a smile. By texting. By sharing memes. By sending music and movies. By talking. By just letting them know that you have their back.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), suicide claims nearly 800,000 lives every year, and is the second leading cause of death in the age groups of 15-29.

Every single one of them is preventable, only if we are kind enough.

It’s clichéd, nevertheless,

Live and love. We’ve got only one life.